Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The Republicans’ Enthusiasm Gap

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 1, 2012

I’ve been trying to gauge relative voter enthusiasm by comparing 2012 primary and caucus results to those of 2008, on the idea that the more folks who turn out for the early primaries, the ones that decide the end result months in advance, are the key ones to watch as the motivation factor to participate will be higher in those than in the primaries held after them.

Up to this point — aside from South Carolina which was the Tea Party’s Last Hurrah, hence the huge TheoCon turnout which disproportionately benefited Newt — turnout’s been similar to 2008, especially when you take population growth into account. But then we came to Florida, and Florida’s GOP turnout this year was much lower than four years ago: 1,663,698 to 2008’s 1,949,498, or nearly 300,000 less.

I believe this means that while the Republican’s Tea-Party/Bircher base may have grudgingly accepted Romney as the only Republican who stands a chance against Obama this year, the operative word here is “grudgingly”. This was an incredibly hard-fought state — Romney needed Florida’s winner-take-all system to put a stake through Newt’s heart, which is why he outspent Newt there by a five-to-one margin — and if there really was the huge “dump Obama” fervor the GOP/Media Complex says exists, one would expect turnout to have been much higher than in 2008. Instead, the opposite happened, and there was a fifteen percent drop in turnout from 2008.

From now on, the rest of the primary schedule will have a decreasing amount of relevance aside from padding Mitt’s delegate totals. Money that was either on the sidelines or committed to other candidates will now start flowing Mitt’s way, and he’s going to need it: He outspent Santorum by nearly 100-to-1 in Iowa and still lost by a hairsbreadth, he outspent Gingrich by over two-to-one in South Carolina and got beaten like a gong, and he had to pull out all the stops and outspend Newt by five-to-one to beat him in Florida. His easiest win was in New Hampshire, where he had the advantage of being the only New Englander in the race, and even there he still had to spend over $10 million.

David Paul Kuhn of the Republican-run RealClearPolitics addresses the Republicans’ enthusiam gap in a roundabout way, asking: “Will Romney’s Strengths Prove Moot Against Obama?” Well, when even the Republican stalwart Scott Rasmussen’s polling shows Obama beating Romney by four percentage points in the general, I suspect that the answer is “no”.

Why is this? A number of reasons have been advanced, one of them being anti-Mormon prejudice, but I suspect that another factor is this: Having Romney as the nominee would mean that the Republicans’ biggest weapon to date against Obama and the Democrats — the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act — is now permanently neutralized, as the ACA is in essence a national version of the “Romneycare” that Mitt introduced in Massachusetts, and too many Republicans are all too aware of this.

If Romney is ever foolish enough to criticize the ACA during any of his debates with Obama, all Obama has to do is tell the stark truth: “Funny you should say that, Governor, as we used your Romneycare plan as a model for the Affordable Care Act.”

3 Responses to “The Republicans’ Enthusiasm Gap”

  1. Charles II said

    Thanks for looking at the enthusiasm gap, one of many things I was curious about and never got around to looking at.

    Florida is, amazingly and counter to all the media reporting, not necessarily winner-take-all. As part of the punishment for advancing their primary, their right to have a winner-take-all primary was put in doubt. If a Florida resident files a challenge at the rules committee, Rmoney might end up with fewer than half the delegate.

    I am not convinced that the Rmoneycare/Obamacare thing will have much effect. As the conventional wisdom has it, Gingrich’s attacks serve to immunize the public for the general election. In this case, I think the conventional wisdom is correct. Republicans may punish Rmoney now by staying home, but in the general, their hatred for Obama will overcome their disdain for Rmoney.

    It does illustrate the total collapse of principle in the Republican party, which bodes ill for the future. Just as the Democratic brand has been deeply tarnished by NAFTA, welfare “reform”, telecomm immunity, and so on, there is no coherent positive explanation of what it means to be a Republican. Christian? No, Rmoney is a post-Christian Mormon. Small government? No, Rmoney has consistently supported big government initiatives. Consistent, even if consistency hurts? Ha!

    The latter is the one thing that really held the party together. They chose the elephant as their symbol, I would guess, because (in popular mythology) elephants never forget. Loyalty is a central theme as to what it means to be a Republican: loyalty to country (or at least to the wealthier tenth of it), to church (though not to Jesus), to principle (Rmoney being “a perfectly-oiled weathervane,” in Rachel’s phrase), and to one another (Reagan’s eleventh commandment having been completely discarded in this campaign).

    If the elephant has Alzheimer’s, what can be left of the party?

    • Thing is, Gingrich hasn’t really touched Romney on ObamaRomneyCare — yet. That’s going to be one of the last guns he pulls out. He’s instead tailored his attacks to the perceived hot buttons of the GOP voting bases of each state. (Hence his too-late-to-be-effective “Romney wouldn’t let Jews eat Kosher” attack launched in Florida, a state with the third-biggest Jewish population in the US.)

  2. Mark Gisleson said

    Pity the poor Republicans. Three years out of four, Fox News gives them nothing but good hair news evangelists who give them sponge baths, jokes and Big Rock Candy Mountain analyses, but then, every fourth year, Fox’s viewers are forced to examine real candidates who have to run in the real world.

    Talk about cognitive dissonance!

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